Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New Year's Adventures at WDW

            Every year, we visit one of the Walt Disney World parks for New Year’s Eve, and this year was no different.  Miraculously, I was not working this year on New Year’s Eve, so we had the opportunity to brave the crowds and visit several of the parks. Our adventures began on December 30th with a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We saw the Frozen show, Fantasmic, and we ate dinner at Momma Melrose’s. Unfortunately, it rained the entire evening.  Honestly, the weather was miserable, but this terrible weather worked to our advantage. 
Being insane, we left DHS, and then we journeyed to the Magic Kingdom in order to see the fireworks.  Many people do not realize this, but Magic Kingdom offers the New Year’s fireworks on December 30th and the 31st.  The earlier show is much less crowded, and it is the exact same fireworks.  Due to the horrible weather, Magic Kingdom was not terribly crowded.  This was wonderful for us because we strolled in and found a prime viewing spot right in the middle of Main Street! The fireworks were amazing because the show happens both behind the train station and behind Cinderella Castle.  There are also perimeter fireworks during the New Year’s countdown.  This is a serious pyrotechnics show, and the rain did not put a damper on any part of the show.  As soon as the fireworks ended, we booked it to the monorail in order to return to the TTC.  We left the Magic Kingdom at 12:05 am, and we arrived home by 12:25 am.  This was pretty impressive given that the Magic Kingdom had been enduring phase closures throughout the day.
On New Year’s Eve, we started off with breakfast at Kona Café, which was delicious.  Parking restrictions were in effect, so we could not leave our car at the Polynesian.  World Drive was a parking lot, so we couldn’t even get into Magic Kingdom parking.  We knew that we wanted to end up at Animal Kingdom later that evening, so we parked at Animal Kingdom and took a bus to Magic Kingdom.  There were actually guest relations cast members waiting to check ticket types at the bus stop because Magic Kingdom was in Phase closures again that morning.  This means that guests with certain types of tickets were not admitted into the Magic Kingdom due to capacity issues.  We have annual passes, so we didn’t have any trouble.  After a lengthy bus ride, we finally made it to the Magic Kingdom.  We used our three fastpasses, and then we left.  It was just too crowded, and that large of a crowd does not leave a lot of room for enjoyable park touring.

 After catching a bus back to Animal Kingdom, we enjoyed the Festival of the Lion King and It’s Tough to be a Bug.  We then visited the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our dinner reservations at Sanaa.  Dinner was delicious, and then we drove back home.  I had work the next day, and we knew that the parks would be uncomfortably crowded by the time we arrived at any of them.  All in all, we had a really successful New Year’s Eve at WDW.  However, we planned pretty much every second of these two days so that we would not have to endure the enormous crowds that were in each of the parks.  You can definitely have fun on New Year’s at Disney World, but you need a really good plan, realistic expectations, and bottomless amounts of patience!  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas!

At Walt Disney World, the parks are already decorated for the holiday season.  As soon as Halloween is over, it’s time for Christmas and all of the special holiday events that take place during this time of year. 
At Magic Kingdom, you can enjoy Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights in November and December.  At this party, you can enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and cookies as well as the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.  There is also a special version of Wishes fireworks that is themed for the holiday season.  The park is completely decorated for Christmas already!  Only through Disney magic could the park be Halloween one day and Christmas the next!
This year, there are some new additions to the Christmas décor at Magic Kingdom.  Namely, the garlands that used to stretch across Main Street had to be re-worked in order to accommodate the Festival of Fantasy parade.  Now, instead of garland, there are arches that extend from the buildings on Main Street.  These arches are a great compromise that still give the feel of the garland but also allow for the fantastic parade to make its way through the park.  In addition, Cinderella’s Castle is still covered in the Dreamlights; however, Queen Elsa uses here snowy powers to make them come to life every night! Olaf, Princess Anna, and Kristoff are along for the ride as well!  This show is very cute, and it will definitely thrill all of the Frozen fans who visit Walt Disney World.  Speaking of the royalty from Frozen, they are also a part of the Once Upon a Christmastime parade this year!
The Christmas magic does not only extend to the Magic Kingdom.  You can experience the holiday season by enjoying the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  This holiday treat involves millions of dancing lights throughout the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios.  This beautiful display is hard to describe; it must be seen!  Basically, every surface of the Streets of America is covered with millions of lights that dance to various holiday tunes.  There are at least 43 hidden Mickeys throughout the area, and the guests are covered with magical snow every few minutes.  This show is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. 
Every Disney resort is also decked out for the season.  If you visit the Grand Floridian, you can see a huge gingerbread house that is actually used to sell gingerbread to guests.  Every resort has a beautiful Christmas tree as well as many other beautiful decorations.  The Contemporary Resort has a gingerbread display that is in the same style as the Mary Blair artwork in the Grand Canyon Concourse. 
Epcot also gets into the spirit of the season with all of the Christmas storytellers that visit the World Showcase.  You can learn about how the holiday season is celebrated in different countries around the world by visiting Epcot. 
Overall, Walt Disney World is gorgeous at any time of year, but the holiday season introduces a little extra magic that is definitely worth seeing!  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Rare Find

            When I lived in Louisiana, a fellow Disney nerd was kind enough to give me a wonderful book called, Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center.  This book has wonderful photos as well as a great deal of information about EPCOT Center circa 1982.  I love this book because it is one of those fantastic coffee table books that is just full of information and full color pull-out pictures.  Now, it is obvious that this book really made my day, but when I opened up the dust jacket, I found something even more fantastic.  Underneath the jacket was someone’s itinerary for touring Walt Disney World in the early 1980s.  This is just like a little time capsule that gives us insight into what people may have wanted to see at the Vacation Kingdom of the World when it was a very new travel destination. 
            From the handwriting, I feel like this was an older couple that was touring the parks.  They only had two full days to spend at WDW, which seems like so little to me these days.  However, there were only two parks back then.  We shall call our couple Fred and Gladys.  Clearly, Fred and Gladys knew what they wanted to do when they arrived at the parks.  I wonder if they got to ride in the front of the monorail?  I love the names that they came up with for the different rides that they were going to see.  They were going to see the Eastern Airlines Show, which we know as If You Had Wings and later Delta Dream Flight.  The Runaway Mountain Train is of course Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which had just opened in 1980, so this would have been a brand new ride!  They also list the GE Home Carousel, which we know today as the Carousel of Progress.  When Magic Kingdom first opened, the Carousel of Progress was sponsored by General Electric, who also sponsored Horizons.  I think my favorite reference is the World of Little People, which is of course, It’s a Small World.  Finally, they really wanted to see the Pirates of Pen, which I can assume is the Pirates of the Caribbean.  I wish Fred and Gladys would have left a few photos of their vacation in the book.  Gladys was probably very well dressed with a straw hat as well as those fancy cat eyeglasses frames.  Fred was probably wearing a pair of slacks as well as a button down shirt.  I imagine that they both probably purchased lots of souvenirs from Magic Kingdom, especially one of those pennants that featured photos of different attractions.  Clearly, they loved EPCOT enough to purchase this book!
            Now, on to day two of their adventure, which will begin with a trip through the “ball.”  This references Spaceship Earth, which is still a beloved attraction.  Oh, just seeing the World of Motion and Horizons on their itinerary makes me instantly jealous of the day they were able to spend in EPCOT.  Judging by their list of attractions, we can safely say that Fred and Gladys were visiting Florida in 1983 at the earliest.  You see, Horizons didn’t open until 1983, but this book was published to promote EPCOT in its infancy. We can at least narrow down their visit to the early 1980s.  I wish I could travel back and ride World of Motion, Horizons, and Journey into Imagination again! With all of the upheaval at Epcot lately, that would be a welcome time travel trip! 

            We know what rides Fred and Gladys rode, but I wonder where they stayed and where they ate their meals?  I like to imagine them staying in the height of luxury at the Polynesian.  They probably visited the Contemporary too, judging from their love of the monorail.  I bet they even took at ride on the ferryboat just to check it out; they would have seen some of the characters water skiing on the Seven Seas Lagoon. The possibilities are endless!  I am sure that they had a wonderful trip, and they bought this EPCOT book as a fond reminder of their time spent at the Vacation Kingdom of the World.  It was so much fun to find this little piece of Disney history in my book.  I hope you can take some time to daydream about this vacation from the past!  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Hallowishes! Boo to you!

            It’s hard to believe, but Halloween decorations have already started to show up at Walt Disney World.  The Magic Kingdom is already decked out with pumpkins and all manner of Halloween decorations.  Last year, we attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and we had a great time, so this year, we are definitely going to visit again this year!
            With regard to costumes, we love to get dressed up for the party. We haven’t quite decided on costumes yet for this year, but we still have some time to come up with ideas. However, this past year, we decided to go with a Disney theme for our costumes.  After much thought, we came up with the idea to go as the husband and wife from the Carousel of Progress.  I purchased a vintage paint smock, and used a scarf to tie back my hair in order to re-create the scene where Sara is painting the rumpus room.  My husband went as John from the scene that takes place during the summer in the 1920s.  For his costume, we needed to find a blue shirt with a white color, and I made the Niagara Falls fan that John holds during this scene.  Overall, these costumes were pretty inexpensive to create, and when we walked through the Magic Kingdom, most people knew who we were, especially when we went to visit our “home” in Tomorrowland.  The cast members at the Carousel of Progress got a kick out of our costumes, and we received much praise for our efforts!
            After taking a few photos and walking around for a little while, we decided to start making our way through the candy trails and trick-or-treat locations.  When it neared time for the first parade of the evening, we made our way to Liberty Square to snag a spot. I highly recommend attending the second parade of the evening.  The first parade was very crowded, and it was difficult to get a clear view of the floats and characters. After the parade, we experienced a few attractions, and then we walked over to the hub to watch the Villains Mix and Mingle.  We missed this show last year, so we definitely wanted to see it.  All of the villains were really great dancers, and the show was funny, but it was a little short.  After the show, we decided to stay in the hub to catch Happy Hallowishes.  This show is a must-see because the fireworks are truly spectacular.  There are perimeter fireworks during this show, and the best place to feel truly enveloped in the action is the hub or Main Street.

            After enjoying the fireworks, we stopped at the last few trick or treat locations that we had missed, and then we decided to call it a night.  Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is great fun, and we left with a serious haul of candy for the evening.  The fireworks and parade were topnotch, and we love getting dressed up as well as seeing the creativity in other people’s costumes.  If you have the opportunity to attend this event, it is definitely worth the money.  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Great Movie Ride

Hooray for Hollywood! Now that I have ridden the Great Movie Ride many times due to the nature of my employment, I feel like I can really analyze the part that this attraction plays in making a thesis statement for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  When Disney’s MGM Studios first opened in 1989, the Great Movie Ride was one of the two rides (the other being the Backlot Tour) that existed in the park.  That’s right; there were only two rides in the entire park at that time because the goal was that Orlando was going to be an extension of Hollywood.  Disney had big plans for the Florida Studios park to be a working studio where guests could actually see movies as well as television shows being made.  Sadly, this plan didn’t exactly work out, so the Studios became more of a traditional theme park.
            The Great Movie Ride, however, still serves a reminder of what Disney’s Hollywood Studios was going to be, a park that educated guests about movies and the movie making process.  This ride shows guests a little bit of movie magic while allowing the guests to become a part of the movies.  We get to see a snapshot of some classic movies as well as enter the beautiful Chinese Theater. 
The Great Movie Ride sets the scene by welcoming guests into the theater and showing them some previews for the upcoming movies that they are about to experience.  Then, to further the idea that you are on a set, you are welcomed into a Hollywood Soundstage.  The idea is that we are all a part of this movie.  Your tour guide is taking you through various scenes, but all of us get to be a part of the movie making process.  If you notice, the characters that are portrayed in the ride are referred to by their real names, not their character names.  The whole point is that you are getting to learn about how movies are made, so these characters are actors, real people who are playing roles.  This goes with the idea that everything is a set; on some parts of the attraction, you can actually see the back of some of the sets on purpose because, again, you are looking behind the curtain.  When you encounter the gangster or the bandit, they are part of the movie; we have just stumbled into one of the scenes of that movie.  This is why the tour guide informs the gangster that he or she (the tour guide) has seen this movie before.  It’s almost as if the tour guide is giving the guests a “wink, wink” everything will be okay cue; this is just pretend. This whole notion that you are part of the show continues as your tour guide makes a grand reappearance in the Anubis scene.  Guests are told that this is just a movie; “anything can happen in the movies!”  Again, this is another reassurance and a reminder that this is all pretend, just more movie magic. 

The entire ride has a very clear introduction into movies with the welcome spiel on the Soundstage to the rising action throughout Musical Street as well as the Gangster and Western scenes.  Finally, the climax occurs when the tour guide is revealed again in Anubis.  There is a sense that everything will be okay once the ride continues on through Tarzan and moves on to the Wizard of Oz.  The Wicked Witch does cause some concern, but the ride ends on positive note with a journey to Oz as well as a movie clip montage that is supposed to get viewers excited about “all that Hollywood has to offer.”  Then, the ride concludes where you began, right back on the Soundstage.  You are then free to explore the park and go and learn about other movie making techniques.  You can still learn a little about movie making, but there is some disconnect these days throughout the Studios because the entire park is not really devoted to the ways in which movies are made.  There are definitely some fantastic attractions and shows present, but The Great Movie Ride really prepares you for the DHS of 1989, not necessarily the DHS of 2014.  Regardless, this attraction is the centerpiece of Hollywood Studios and represents what the thesis statement of this park should be, which includes learning about movie making and also journeying to the Hollywood that never was, but always will be.  Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking Time to Relax on Your Vacation

When you are preparing for a trip to WDW, there is so much planning that has to take place in order to get the most out of your vacation.  Many people feel that they have to plan every moment of each day in order to have fun. After many trips to the World, I have finally learned that it is necessary to take some time out of everyday to enjoy some spontaneous fun. Take a break from all of the fast pass + planning, and just do something low key.  For example, take a boat ride on the Seven Seas Lagoon. This is an immensely relaxing way to spend time on your vacation. There are lots of other fun boat rides too.  You can tour Bay Lake by riding from the Contemporary to Fort Wilderness or to Wilderness Lodge.  Remember, you are on vacation, and you should take some time to unwind and just enjoy the time that you get to spend with your family!
         Another way to relax is to visit any of the resorts that surround the Magic Kingdom.  All of these resorts are beautiful, and you can spend hours just walking around and exploring what each resort has to offer. I have spent many enjoyable hours just sitting in the lobby of the Grand Floridian listening to the piano or to the band. In addition, the Contemporary Resort offers some beautiful views of WDW property, and who doesn't love watching the monorail drive through the building? Also, the Polynesian Resort offers gorgeous views as well as relaxing music to help you wind down after a long day at the parks. Wilderness Lodge has a grand lobby that has so much history as well as many hidden Mickeys to explore. If you want to feel like you are far away from civilization, head over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and enjoy all of the animals that can be found on the savannah. At night, they even offer night vision goggles that allow you to see the animals. The Boardwalk Inn also offers a great deal of entertainment. You can enjoy the placid water views or just walk around the shops.
       If you have already toured the resorts, take some time to refuel by the pool. Just take some time to relax and enjoy the amenities at your resort.  All Disney resorts should be explored because each one is so full of rich details and theming. Remember, you don't have to spend every minute of your vacation in the parks in order to enjoy yourself!
If you are looking for relaxing ways to enjoy the parks, you can always take in some of the live entertainment that is offered on a daily basis throughout all four parks. I always enjoy the Dapper Dans as well as the Main Street Philharmonic when I am visiting Magic Kingdom. The Citizens of Hollywood also put on amazing shows at Hollywood Studios! They interact with the guests and are just so funny! They add to the ambiance of the Studios, and I never get sick of seeing what new shows they come up with next. In Epcot and Animal Kingdom, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy live music as well as fun characters who hang out in the parks. Basically, there is so much to do at WDW, there should never be a reason for you not to be enjoying your vacation.

       So, next time you visit the world, make an effort to spend less time planning and more time enjoying spontaneous magical moments with your family! That is what vacation is all about. Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Earning My Ears

Since I have become a cast member at Walt Disney World, I have had the opportunity to view the parks from a new perspective. When I first expressed interest in working at WDW, so many people told me that I would not like working in the parks and that I would get sick of going to Disney World everyday. Now that I have been working for a while, I can say that being a cast member has not put a damper on my love for the parks, nor has it spoiled the magic for me. Since I have been a cast member, I can honestly say that I feel like I am part of creating magic and happiness for others. This has given me an even stronger appreciation for all of the hard work that makes Walt Disney World function so well.
           When someone starts as a cast member, he or she attends Traditions, which is a class that helps to explain the history and mission statement on which the Disney Company is built. This all-day course was so much fun for me because I love Disney history, and I also believe in furthering Walt Disney's legacy of quality family entertainment. We learned some important core values during Traditions. First, as a cast member, one of our primary goals is to create happiness for our guests. We are part of the magic that makes Disney Parks so special, and we are the stewards of Walt Disney's legacy. We have a responsibility to treat every guest as a very individual person (VIP), and we need to have pride in all that we do. In addition to these lessons, we also learned about the four keys basics, which are safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. These four keys are the guiding principles by which all Disney Parks operate.  Safety is the first and most important key because we want both guests and cast members to be safe so that they can have fun. You are safer at a Disney Park than anywhere else on earth!
            After completing all of my various orientations, I finally found out that I would be working at the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios. I was both excited and nervous because I knew that I would have to learn a 40 page script in a very short amount of time. Even though I definitely felt concerned, I was so excited to start my journey as a cast member! I trained for six very long days, and then I had to go through my assessment, which was very challenging. Luckily (and with lots of hard work), I passed and earned my ears!
           I never thought that I would be pursuing my dream of becoming a cast member; so many people told me that it was impossible and would just ruin my love of Disney World. However, I am proud to say that all of those folks were wrong, and I am glad that I took a risk and became a cast member. Every morning when I am walking through Hollywood Studios before the park opens, I am able to watch the park come to life. It goes from a peaceful place to a hive of activity as all of the cast members start to arrive and prepare their areas for another day of creating magic. Then, I spend all day fighting bandits and gangsters who try to steal the jewel from the great stone god, Anubis. I get to protect guests from the Wicked Witch and visit the wonderful land of Oz every 22 minutes.

          All in all, working for Disney has enhanced my love of the parks, and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me. There are so many different opportunities for cast members, and who knows where I will be working a few years from now? So, if you make it over to the Great Movie Ride, "my name is Jenn, and I'll be your guide for a magical journey into the movies!" Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!